When the Razorbacks lost to Duke in the Elite Eight last season, it was clear that the only thing standing in their way to a Final Four was size. The Blue Devils intimidated Arkansas on the glass, grabbing nine more rebounds in their nine-point win.
During the offseason, head coach Eric Musselman took it upon himself to fix that problem, bringing in two freshmen and four transfers who were at least 6-foot-7. The Hogs have been outrebounded just twice in 16 games this season, definitely solving that problem, but certainly creating another: the inability to shoot 3-pointers.
Arkansas is making 3-pointers at an abysmal rate of 28.4%, which ranks 352nd out of 363 Division I programs. It’s on pace to be the worst in Musselman’s eight seasons as Division I head coach. college, and it would be the fifth consecutive season in which his team’s 3-point percentage declined from the previous year. It’s also on pace to be the worst in program history since the stat was first tracked in 1986-87.
Through four conference games, that figure is even worse. Shooting just 19.4% from 3-point range, the Hogs trail at the back of the SEC, nearly six percentage points behind 13th-place Ole Miss.
“It’s hard to win right now when you’re not making 3s, which I don’t know if we will,” Musselman said after Wednesday’s 15-point home loss to No. 4 Alabama.
The Razorbacks went a miserable 2-10 from behind the arc on Wednesday, with both marks coming from Davonte Davis. He marked the second straight game with just two 3-pointers for the Hogs, and the third time in four SEC games they didn’t shoot more than 20%. Remarkably, that performance increased his 3-point percentage in conference play by 0.09 percentage points.
In fairness to Arkansas, it has been losing the services of two of its top four 3-point shooters in the past five games and probably will for at least another five. Although only in non-conference competition, Trevon Brazile’s 37.9% leads the team from the deep end and unless someone steps up, he will continue to set the tone.
Nick Smith Jr. is shooting 30% from 3-point range, trailing Joseph Pinion at 37.5% and Anthony Black at 30.4%, but has posted a team-low five games this season . The freshman phenom’s right knee injury kept him out of the first six games of the season, and it flared again, forcing him to sit out starting the second half of the December 17 game against Bradley. That made things even more complicated for the Razorbacks after the loss of Brazile, who suffered a torn ACL on Dec. 6.
“We’re missing two guys that we had projected would play around 60 minutes for us,” Musselman said Wednesday. “We have to keep looking and trying to figure it out.”
The Hogs can snap their two-game losing streak when they take on Vanderbilt on Saturday at 1 pm in Nashville, Tennessee. The Commodores have allowed opponents to shoot 30.8% from 3-point range this season, the 72nd-best mark in DI from a defensive standpoint. The game will air on ESPNU and stream live on the ESPN app.